Most tourists wants to stay at the center of it all, but where exactly is the center of it all? Sultanahmet? Taksim?
Sultanahmet is in the historical peninsula – at the district of Eminonu to be exact. It’s where most of the popular historical sights of Istanbul are – the iconic Sultan Ahmet Mosque or popularly known as Blue Mosque, beside the Blue Mosque is the Egyptian Obelisk and Hippodrome, fronting the Blue Mosque on the other side of the park is the Hagia Sophia or Aya Sofia, beside it is the Basilica Cistern or sunken basilica or Yerebatan Sarnici, few walks down the road is the Topkapi Palace, 2 tram stations from Sultanahmet station or a mere 10-minute walk is the Grand Bazaar, and several other sights not usually on the very popular list.
So most people, especially first-timers prefer to stay in hotels “within the Sultanahmet” radius. There are so much hotels in Sultanahmet and most of the time if the hotel do not mention Sultanahmet on their websites - say Sirkeci or Beyazid or Laleli - tourists will assume that it is outside of Sultanahmet and therefore far for comfort. This I guess is absolute misconception. I had similar thoughts too the first time I had planned for Istanbul. But after several trips to the city and dozens of hotel stays, I realized, there’s not much difference between staying at hotels near the Blue Mosque or in Sultanahmet and those nearby the area.
Unique Quality: Eminonu is not really that huge area to navigate, besides comfortable public transport are very much available everywhere, particularly the very comfortable and efficient tramvay that passes along several places or stations like Aksaray – Laleli – Beyazid – Cemberlitas – Sultanahmet – Sirkeci – Eminonu (ferry terminal).
In fact, there are a lots of nice budget hotels outside Sultanahmet comfort zone at better rates and sometimes better facilities. Even Aksaray which is the 4th tram station from Sultanahmet seemed to be not that far considering the availability of tram which is approximately 10 minutes ride to Sultanahmet.
Beyazid is even nearer, just about a 10-minute leisure walk to Sultanahmet, and where the Grand Bazaar is. For example, I found this comfortable but right on budget hotel in Mithatpasa Cadessi in Beyazid at Euro35 per night inclusive of breakfast and airport pick-up (min. 3 nights stay).
In Laleli or Aksaray or Sherezebadi, well, the area is full of RTW shops, maybe not as amusing as Sultanahmet, but you could find hotels here at US$25 or 30 with the same facilities that will cost you more in Sultanahmet.
How about Taksim? Taksim is on the other side of the Bosphorous. Taksim may mean and includes the whole Beyoglu area or the full length of the popular Istiklal Caddesi – from the Taksim Square upto the Tunnel that leads to Galata Tower. This place is more of a nightlife with so many bars and joints to chillout. Istiklal Cadessi itself is an attraction, lots of people – both Istanbulites & tourists – parades along this long street everyday from morning til after midnight, in fact even until dawn.
There are hordes of hotels in Taksim area – from 5-star hotels to cheap hostels. A lot of non-rated hotels as cheap as US$15 can be found at branch streets of Istiklal Cadessi, basic ones, but passable if you’re not the fussy type.
Directions: My all-time advise if you’re not on a splurge and intends to stay more than a week in Istanbul is – book a night or two and shop around, you’ll never run out of place to stay in Istanbul… even on peak season.
Hotel Sultanahmet is a lovely small hotel, providing all necessary expectations of the visitors. The manager and the staff are really friendly.
Directions: Sultanahmet, on a quite street 5 minute walking from Blue Mosque
Tevkifhane Sokak No. 1, Sultanahmet-Eminonu, Istanbul
Kucuk Ayasofya Caddesi Kapiagasi Sokak 5, Sultanahmet, Istanbul
Ordu Caddesi Dibekli Cami Sokak No:19, Beyazit, Istanbul
Ebusuud Cad. Mehmet Murat Sok. No: 4, Sirkeci, Istanbul
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Address: Divanyolu Cad No 20, Sultanahmet, Istanbul, 340110, Turkey